World Council of Churches
20-26 November 2019
Doc. No. 04.3 rev
Statement on the Climate Change Emergency
But the earth will be desolate because of its inhabitants, for the fruit of their doings.
Recent extreme weather events of increasing strength and frequency around the world together with further studies conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have jolted many into belated recognition that the climate crisis is not a distant prospect, but is upon us today.
From Hurricane Maria, Tropical Cyclone Idai, Hurricane Dorian and Typhoon Hagibis which caused loss of lives and left widespread devastation in Puerto Rico, in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, in the Bahamas and in Japan respectively, to ongoing bushfires in Australia and California, to unprecedented flooding in Bangladesh and in Venice, and to the very recent landslide following exceptionally heavy rains in Kenya, the impacts on our communities - especially the poorest and most vulnerable among us – and on the bountiful Creation that God has entrusted to human beings as stewards – are now all too tragically real.
The latest IPCC special reports on climate change, land, oceans and cryosphere confirm that climate change has become a top driver of hunger all over the world, and project rising sea levels of up to 1 metre by 2100 due to melting glaciers, water scarcity affecting nearly 2 billion people and more intense sea-level events such as storms and flooding, if warming is not kept at the safer limit of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Moreover, exceptionally destructive fires and the encroachment of industrial agriculture and mining, have greatly increased concern about runaway deforestation in the largest remaining rainforest ecosystems – the earth’s lungs, the home and heritage of many Indigenous Peoples, and a critical resource in confronting the threat of climate change. Especially in the Amazon, in the Congo Basin, and in West Papua and elsewhere in Indonesia, this resource is, often deliberately, being squandered at a perilous rate.
Children, young people and ordinary citizens have made public demonstration of their outrage at the lack of any adequate response by governments to the gravity of this global crisis, and against the backsliding by some governments. Children have been obliged to mobilize and to raise their voices to demand what adults have failed or refused to deliver – fundamental changes to our economic and social systems in order to preserve God’s Creation and their future.
Indeed, a recent research report shows that governments are currently projected to produce 120% more fossil fuels by 2030 than can be burned if the world is to limit warming to an increase of 1.5°C
In particular, the United States’ formal notification of its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement – despite the increasingly disastrous impact of extreme weather events in the US itself – seriously undermines the best hope the international community had secured for a multilateral global response to the climate crisis. This is an abject failure and abdication of global leadership, at precisely the historical moment when such leadership is most needed. It will embolden other backsliding states. It impoverishes and imperils all of us.
The protests against widening inequality in Chile, triggering the move of the 25th Conference of Parties (COP 25) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from Santiago to Madrid, underscore the importance of holding together the goals of sustainability and equity, and ensuring that the costs of transitioning to a carbon neutral economy are not borne by those who already have few resources. In other words, there can be no real transition without socio-economic justice.
The time for debate and disputation of established scientific facts is long over. The time for action is swiftly passing. We will all be held to account for our inaction and our disastrous stewardship of this precious and unique planet. The climate emergency is the result of our ecological sins. It is time for metanoia for all. We must now search our hearts and our most fundamental faith principles for a new ecological transformation, and for divine guidance for our next steps to build resilience in the face of this unprecedented millennial challenge.
The executive committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, on 20-26 November 2019, therefore:
Joins other faith leaders, communities and civil society organizations in declaring a climate emergency, which demands an urgent and unprecedented response by everyone everywhere – locally, nationally and internationally.
Expresses its bitter disappointment at the inadequate and even regressive actions by governments that should be leaders in the response to this emergency, especially inaction to stop fires and deforestation, the destruction of Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands and livelihoods, and attacks on ecological defenders; the weak commitments made under the Paris Agreement; and measures that place additional financial burdens on poor communities.
Calls on COP 25, taking place in Madrid on 2 to 13 December 2019, to:
- set the groundwork for committing to more ambitious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions as part of Nationally Determined Contributions with a view to attaining carbon neutrality by 2050 and limiting warming to not more than 1.5°C;
- ramp up commitments by wealthy nations to provide sufficient, predictable and transparent climate finance to low-income nations for adaptation and resilience-building;
- strengthen the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage to include finance to support people and communities affected by the impacts of the climate emergency; and
- promote actions to engage and learn from Indigenous Peoples in and beyond the UNFCCC process, protect biodiversity, combat deforestation, encourage agro-ecology and construct circular and redistributive economies.
Invites UN system partners, consistent with the critical research and policy advice emanating from UN sources, to examine and divest from fossil fuel investments in their own banking systems and pension funds.
Calls on member churches, ecumenical partners, other faith communities and all people of good will and moral conscience to find the means whereby we can make a meaningful contribution in our own contexts to averting the most catastrophic consequences of further inaction and negative actions by governments – and may join in confronting this global crisis through concerted advocacy for climate change mitigation and adaptation, zero fossil fuel use and a “just transition”, as well as through local action, everywhere – in our fellowship, our churches, our communities, our families, and as individuals.